Over the years, he has taken better quality photos, butthe scene Jeff Schrader captured from Eagle Summit last September has drawn moreinterest–and potential sales–than even the best images in his portfolio.
While he has sold a few aurora borealis photos in histime, Schrader, who lives near Arctic Circle Hot Springs and shoots under theprofessional title of JAS Photography, hit the jackpot on Sept. 9. He wasdriving home from an errand in Fairbanks when he saw an interesting fire photoopportunity. Then his own persistence, some skill and a lucky stroke broughthome an image of the Central Complex fires that is sure to find its way ontomany an Alaskan wall this summer.
The image shows a sweeping fire line below Eagle Summitwith spot fires in the background. In the sky, the aurora borealis seems tomirror the fire line, while above the lights, the Big Dipper rests in a serenestar-speckled sky. Schrader titled the image, “Between Heaven andHell.”
John Hagen/ News-Miner PHOTOGRAPHIC GEM–Jeff Schraderon Friday holds a poster-sized print of his photo. He took it using a Minolta35mm camera, 28mm lens and Fuji 400 color negative film. It’s a 30-secondexposure.
“That one photo epitomizes the fire year that wehad,” Deputy State Forester Dean Brown said. “It shows a dichotomy ofAlaska natural resources in one photo with the fire on one hand and the northernlights and the Big Dipper on the other. It’s amazing. It’s just a tremendousphotograph.”
The shot will grace the cover of Forestry’s annualreport this year, she said. The division also purchased 400 posters of thephotograph and 60 signed 8-by-10-inch prints to be given out to volunteers andothers who “went above and beyond” to help in the firefighting effortsof 2004.
The division purchases a photo for the report covereach year and used a few federal dollars to purchase the posters and prints,Brown said.
“We want to say to people, ‘Thank you. We haven’tforgotten all the help we got,'” she said.
Schrader was involved with firefighting efforts lastsummer as he was hired to ferry crews and equipment from place to place in hispickup truck.
“They hired me and my truck,” he said.”I drove around supplies and crews. Sometimes I picked up equipment orhelped run some hose, that sort of thing.”
By September the crews had gone home and Schrader madea trip to Fairbanks for some shopping.
“I was just using some of my wages to come toFairbanks and get supplies to build a greenhouse,” he said.
On the way back, crossing Eagle Summit at about 10p.m., he saw the fire in the valley below 106 Mile Steese Highway and thoughtthe fire line would make some interesting photographs at night.
“I thought, ‘Wow, look at that,'” he said.”Naturally, I didn’t have my cameras with me.”
Schrader drove to his home, about 25 miles from thesummit, and raced back to the top of the hill.
“And low and behold, here comes the lights,”he said.
It was nearly midnight by the time he was taking photosof the fire, aurora borealis and framing shots to include the Big Dipper above.
Using a Minolta 35mm camera, 28mm lens and Fuji 400color negative film, he took several 30-second exposures of the scene.
A neighbor bought a couple of copies of the photographand happened to take one to a community Forestry meeting that focused on thefire season.
“He said they saw it and liked it right away,”Schrader said. “They were asking, ‘Hey, what are you going to do with that?'”
Beyond his Forestry sales, Schrader is trying to placethe posters in as many gift shops as possible before the coming tourist season,advertising in the national Wildland Firefighter Magazine and selling them,”the old-fashioned way.” He also plans to take a month traveling thestate and selling what he can.
He hopes to make enough from the photograph to purchasea satellite dish so he can hook up to the Internet and sell on the World WideWeb. It’s a costly long-distance call from his home to do so now.
“I’ve got an iBook. Eventually I’ll get a scannerand maybe I can put up my own Web site. Right now my computer is just a realexpensive DVD player,” he said.